CFB Halifax: New leader for Canadian Fleet Atlantic

From left, outgoing Commander Canadian Fleet Atlantic, Cmdre Skjerpen; RAdm Craig Baines, Commander Maritime Forces Atlantic, with incoming Commander Cmdre Richard Feltham at the Change of Command ceremony July 11. Photo by Cpl David Veldman, FIS

From left, outgoing Commander Canadian Fleet Atlantic, Cmdre Skjerpen; RAdm Craig Baines, Commander Maritime Forces Atlantic, with incoming Commander Cmdre Richard Feltham at the Change of Command ceremony July 11. Photo by Cpl David Veldman, FIS

Ryan Melanson, Trident Newspaper ~

Acceptance for first of the Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) fleet of Canadian Surface Combatant ships won’t be until the mid-2020s, and while that may seem like a far-off date, Cmdre Craig Skjerpen doesn’t see it that way.

“In reality it will be just the blink of an eye,” he said, highlighting the importance of the many changes that have taken place in the Atlantic Fleet in recent years as the RCN begins looking ahead to the new fleet of ships.

“We’re on a path to change the culture of the navy, and to continue to be adaptive in a world that is changing,” he said in his final address as Commander of Canadian Fleet Atlantic on the newly opened Jetty NJ at HMC Dockyard July 11, before officially handing over command to incoming Cmdre Richard Feltham.

While joking that his exit marked the unfortunate end of the position being held by “Craigs from Saskatchewan” – referring to himself and his predecessor RAdm Craig Baines – he said he was happy to hand over the job to his longtime colleague.

Cmdre Skjerpen got technical in describing some of the many changes and new initiatives undertaken by the Fleet during his time in command, mentioning changes to watch rotations, leadership, and mentorship structures, crew flexibility, attack-team size reduction, the introduction of Asterix, and more. He also talked about new technologies such as land-attack missiles, low-frequency active sonars and UAVs that are being adopted.

“I’m heartened by the fact there are terms and ideas that are new to me but will soon be in the everyday vernacular of every sailor here,” he said. “The level of ingenuity, flexibility, change initiative and change management has been nothing short of fantastic. The Fleet and readiness team has astonished me with how much they’ve been able to accomplish.”

RAdm Craig Baines, Commander Maritime Forces Atlantic, presided over the ceremony, and credited Cmdre Skjerpen for excelling in a demanding job while being an agent of positive change for the Fleet and the Formation.

The Commander of Canadian Fleet Atlantic role requires strategic communication, planning and networking skills, along with the ability to command multiple ships at sea in austere environments, he said.

“Craig has done this multiple times with incredible success, as particularly evidenced during his time commanding numerous ships during Trident Juncture 18 last year.”

RAdm Baines noted that Cmdre Feltham will soon have a similar opportunity as he steps into the command role, set to command a multinational task group at sea during Cutlass Fury 19 off Halifax this September.

A new Fleet Commander will also mean new perspectives and fresh ideas among the senior leadership of the formation, he said.

“I absolutely look forward to having his counsel and advice as part of the team.”

Cmdre Feltham is a former Commander of MOG 5, and is being welcomed back to the east coast after a posting in Ottawa, serving most recently as Director General Naval Force Development. This is the third time in his career that he and Cmdre Skjerpen have exchanged command responsibilities, and he said he was humbled to be taking over from a good friend.

“It’s hard for me to express how I feel and how honoured I am to be coming back to the fleet in this role,” he said, adding the special connection he feels to the city where he met his wife Michelle and started his family.

“No matter how far away I’ve been from Halifax, my heart has always remained here.”

Cmdre Feltham added he was looking forward to the next two years, beginning with the excitement of Cutlass Fury 19, then heading into delivery of the first Harry DeWolf-Class ship, and continuing with further changes aimed at preparing for the future while maintaining the reliability that east coast ships and crews have become known for.

“There’s change coming, and we have to put all our energy and attention on making sure we give our sailors the tools to succeed. That’s my number one priority.”

Filed Under: Top Stories

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